A company purporting to help victims of investment scams recover their money has been ordered into compulsory liquidation by the High Court on the grounds of the public interest. Portman Chandlers Limited claimed to be an international investment business, but in reality, it was a sham set up to defraud struggling investors.

The winding up order was made following a petition presented by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills following a confidential enquiry by the Insolvency Service. Subsequently, the company was ordered into liquidation for a lack of transparency in its management and a failure to maintain or deliver up adequate accounting records.

A shadowy company that proved impossible to trace

A comprehensive enquiry conducted by Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service, experienced only limited success. The company’s website, which claimed Portman could help victims of investment scams recover their money, appeared to be extremely in-depth and gave the firm’s services the veneer of legitimacy.

However, it was later discovered that www.portmanchandlers.co.uk had been copied, almost in its entirety, from a legitimate independent investment company with no connection to Portman Chandlers.

The court also heard that the company’s registered ‘Regent Street’ address was, in fact, one where Portman had no presence and was not entitled to use the business services provided. Furthermore, despite extensive enquiries, the investigation team were not able to trace anyone with any knowledge of the company’s affairs.

Duping investors who were already out of pocket

The investigation found that one investor, who had already fallen foul of a carbon credit scam operated by a company called Global Neutral, received a cold call from a salesman at Portman Chandlers. The salesman claimed that despite the widespread misselling of carbon credits by Global Neutral, for which the firm had since been liquidated, the investor was actually one of the ‘lucky ones’.

The salesman, who went by the name of James Knight, told the investor that his carbon credit investments were safe and had significantly gained in value. The salesman then advised the investor to transfer his carbon credit holding and further invest in an investment bond operated by Portland Chandlers Ltd.

Unfortunately for the salesman, the investor was wise to the rouse and chose instead to report the call to the Insolvency Service’s leading investigator on the case. This was the final nail in Portman Chandlers’ coffin, resulting in the forcible closure and compulsory liquidation of this fraudulent operation.

Investors urged to come forward

Welcoming the court’s decision to wind-up the business, Chris Mayhew, Company Investigations Supervisor, said: “I would once more urge potential investors to hang up on cold calling, manipulative and deceitful investment sharks, including those claiming to be able to recover the money already lost to investment scams.

“If you have been unfortunate enough to be contacted by this company, the official receiver is now handling its affairs and will be glad to hear from you.

“The Insolvency Service will not allow rogue companies to rip-off vulnerable and honest people, and will investigate abuses and close down companies if they are found to be operating, or about to operate, against the public interest.”

The winding-up petition was presented in the High Court on 19 January 2015. Following confidential enquiries carried out by Company Investigations, the petition was unopposed. Portman Chandlers Limited was subsequently wound up for a lack of transparency and a failure to maintain adequate accounting records.

A compulsory liquidation via winding up petition is the most common tool used by creditors or in this case the Insolvency Service to force a company to close. The company directors leave themselves open to investigation by the Official Receiver who will thoroughly investigate directors actions, or lack of action. A compulsory liquidation and winding up order is a very stressful process and statistically more likely to end in director disqualification so should never be taken lightly.

If your company is being threatened with a winding up petition by HMRC or another creditor then contact one of the team 0800 074 6757. We rescue about 95% of companies businesses threatened with being wound up.